The little largely unknown organ in the body called the pancreas plays an important role in digestion and the regulation of other hormones such as insulin in the body. Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. In cats, the underlying origin of pancreatitis if very difficult to identify due to the huge list of possible causative factors . The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are weight loss, inappetence, lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. The duration of symptoms can be range from several days to several weeks depending on the severity of the disease.
Cats with pancreatitis are very susceptible to developing secondary liver and gut inflammation, which can further complicate treatment. This makes early diagnosis and Treatment of the disease very important to decrease hospitalisation time and improve the chance of complete recovery. Getting to the bottom of pancreatitis can be frustrating in cats and multiple tests may be needed. Your cat vet may run a special blood test to increase the index of for the disease however to truly diagnose pancreatitis, a biopsy must be taken and submitted for examination. As this is an invasive means of reaching a diagnosis, it is not always undertaken.
The cornerstone of treatment of pancreatitis in cats is (1) fluid therapy to help hydration and maintain their blood pressure, (2) management any other disease or injuries to minimize ongoing inflammation and potential underlying causes, (3) pain relief to keep the patient comfortable, (4) adequate nutritional support and nausea control and in some cases (5) antibiotics to stop secondary infection (most commonly for the intestines) entering the blood stream and causing further damage around the body.
Many cats with severe pancreatitis will require a feeding tube to be placed, to allow for adequate nutritional support as they are often very reluctant to eat.
Intensive management of secondary complications such as liver damage is often needed in severe cases of pancreatitis. If left untreated, this condition can quickly become life threatening. In chronic cases, the ongoing inflammation of the pancreas can result in pancreatic cancer. If you are concerned about any of the mentioned signs in your cat, talk to your local feline veterinarian.
Written by Dr Alice Edwards